Jeremy Clarkson, Uganda LOVES You!

Into the abyss

There is a man called Jeremy Clarkson. He is a global media celebrity. If you’ve never heard of him maybe your media consumption is limited to Kampala-based tabloids, FM stations with a small radius of coverage and you have no satellite, if any, TV.

I am one of his fans. He is truly entertaining as British media people go: funny, irreverent, pointed, straight-talking and get-your-hands-dirty (particularly if it’s about cars and vehicles and stuff). He also has a weekly column that is good reading.

He is a husband and a father, and comes from good stock complete with the wealthy family.

That’s Jeremy Clarkson.

He was in town (Kampala, Uganda) this week reportedly filming for Top Gear, one of my (and millions, nay, billions) of other people’s favourite BBC TV show (now you remember him, right?).

Many of us yuppie-elite-city-dwelling-BBC-watching-petrolhead-wannabe types were beside ourselves with excitement at the possibility of bumping into him; and there were many sightings of him at the Serena, Bubbles O’Leary, The Junction…some places just started claiming he was there to get a bit of free publicity because the man is a celeb.

One of the fans, in despair at failing to meet this TV legend, spent a day googling him just to get close to him somehow and came across a column entry from September 2011 titled, “My Daughter And I Stepped Over The Body And Into The Brothel”

I read the article in half-disbelief hoping his irreverent comedic style would come to the fore but it didn’t. He seemed to be taking this seriously.

Apparently, his visit to Uganda last year was based on a domestic policy that has him taking his kids somewhere educational once every year.

Hence: “I’ve seen poverty in my travels…but nothing prepares you for the jaw-dropping horror of a Ugandan slum.”

Yeah – Jeremy Clarkson, global media celebrity and possibly graduate of a British educational institution of note, took his daughter to a slum for her annual spot of education about the world. And into a brothel in that slum. A place not many Ugandans have been to, I might point out – myself inclusive.

Of course, he doesn’t anywhere in the story tell us about the more posh slums he has visited with his children, but who cares?

The rest of the story is the usual idiocy – including a claim that “…in a two-hour walk I didn’t see a single girl under the age of 18…” They don’t survive (AIDS)”’

And this got published in the Sunday Times. In 2011. The same year the Sunday Vision over here photographed him with a fan at Quality Cuts, where he probably had a sumptuous meal of a quality you won’t find in many Surrey restaurants.

You can understand such drivel being published back in the 1800s when the Speke’s and Livingstone’s sent dispatches back to England about what they had found here, because they were the first foreigners to pop over and there was no way of verifying it.

But today?

Well I guess it’s what is expected of him, so I won’t challenge him to a duel lest he pens another piece about being mugged in the jungle or something  – however much we’d enjoy that (yeah – go figure which part).

His column on a visit to the Third World just wouldn’t be interesting if he said he’d dined at hotels with plush furnishings such as the Serena, Emin Pasha, Speke Resort, Paraa or Chobe Lodges; if he’d told his readers that Ugandans actually drive cars on tarmac roads and wear clothes that are sometimes bought brand new from the same clothing stores as the rest of the world does.

His readers would have been bored to read about the Ugandans who know how to read and write. Who actually put away three square meals a day – or try not to in order to lose some weight (ahem) just like many of those Brits you see on TV do.

Ugandans with internet access. Who can use computers. Who solve problems on a global scale at various private corporations and non-governmental bodies such as the UN and World Food Programme.

Ugandans who work hard at what they do – be it tilling land, grazing cows or making the art & crafts pieces that Clarkson probably bought a piece or two to take back to Surrey with him – the same way I always buy one or two to put at home in Mutungo.

Ugandans who spend money on Clarkson’s books. All of them. And who buy Top Gear DVD sets. Or used to, till today.

Clarkson’s only report of Kampala is from his visit to the slum. And he probably believed he was doing us a favour in some way by raising charitable emotions amongst people in the UK who have money.

For the record, Clarkson (and make sure your daughter reads this bit for her education): poor people everywhere don’t need handouts and charity. The money you spent in that brothel and in the bars you visited is much more important than the comic relief or Live Aid contributions.

But now, let me introduce Jeremy Clarkson to you again, only this time let’s meet him in a brothel in a Kampala slum, where he probably spent the visit here with his daughter since he doesn’t say where they spent their nights during the educational visit.

And we meet him after he’s had too many Nile Specials amongst some other treats and is now squatting over a filthy latrine:

Jeremy Clarkson is a big, white man with grey disheveled hair who squats over a filthy latrine noisily creating a splatter against the floor that I am certain gets onto his shoes. You’ve got to question the morals of a man who spends so much time in the cheapest and filthiest brothels of Kampala, but more so because he takes his children with him.

Luckily, nobody can accuse him of paedophilia or worse, because he only drinks a number of beers at the low-set coffee table with his daughter, who doesn’t complain either, so we must assume that he is a good father.

Unfortunately, considering the number of people who acquire the deadly AIDS scourge from interactions in these cheap brothels, we might not be seeing much more of Clarkson in the near future…

I could go on with this selective reporting but perhaps instead I’ll just move on and try not to spend too much money on anything that might end up funding another visit of the Clarkson household to a Ugandan slum, or prison, or mortuary.

And maybe the Top Gear report on Uganda will say a few good things about us. Just maybe – but that doesn’t pay back for the rot he’s written about us before.

We love you, Jeremy Clarkson, but we love Uganda more!


25 thoughts on “Jeremy Clarkson, Uganda LOVES You!

  1. That article was very disappointing. For those who haven’t read it, it was like that day when you discovered Santa Clause wasn’t real. Different context, same emotions! Now I wish I hadn’t read it. Watching top gear will never be the same for me again 😦


  2. Very well written Simon. Many times I ask myself what it is that gives some if these people that type of ignorant and shameless attitude. But the world is full if ignoramuses and this chap fits the bill


  3. Simon, with all due respect (and I respect you immensely), I’ll take a contrarian view and wait for your noose!

    I think for folks to hyperventilate over a powerful piece that’s tinged with a fair dose of sarcasm is a waste of our precious emotional energies. Yes, it is disturbing and yes, it smirks of the same high-mindedness that we (elite, high- minded African intellectuals) often accuse white folks of. We hate it when privileged white folks who have no clue about the evils that ail our lands, point out those evils in stark terms. Our instinctive reaction is to become defensive, flail, and hit back at them with justifiable fury.

    Yes, he does make some stark omissions especially about the real positive and clearly visible aspects about life in Uganda — the numerous ones that Simon had highlighted here. But before we haul Clarkson off to the town square and pummel him to a pulp, maybe we need to first step back and consider that pointing out the negatives through his “drivel” is actually what he set out to do in the first place. I would have had a problem if the things he wrote about were simply made-up falsehoods and far from the truth; figments of his fertile imagination. I would urge us to take a step back and ask ourselves whether his observations were downright lies or factual observations. In my humble (some would say uninformed) opinion, what Clarkson did is to have the temerity to hang our dirty drawers out for all to see, marvel and occasionally snicker!

    I would consider Clarkson an artist (even if many would disagree). Writing is an art form. The ability to deliver a powerful social message that leaves people either awed or angry is in my opinion proof enough that the writer/artist has made his or her point; he has struck a chord. Mission accomplished. The artist shouldn’t need not necessarily worry about people’s sensibilities or be distracted by how his message will be perceived. That would be stunting.

    Writing in the preface of his iconic book, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, Oscar Wilde remarked that: “The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.”

    He continued thus: “Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself.”

    I refuse to subscribe to the view that all foreigners (particularly white Americans and Europeans) are all supremely ignorant and have absolutely no moral authority to point out our pitfalls and the perennial, seemingly intractable and unsolvable ills that pervade our country.

    So at the risk of getting pilloried, I submit that before we accuse him of being supremely idiotic and even unhinged, folks need to give Jeremy Clarkson a break. At moments such as this, he’s such an easy and convenient target, but maybe our barbs are a little midplaced. There is so much blame to go around for the putrefied mess thats Kampala’s underbelly, and I don’t think that shooting the messenger is particularly helpful. I would even go out on a limb and state that he was doing us a weird favor by being so raw, blatant, even abrasive and having the ‘cojones’ to lay bare what many of us choose not to see or simply choose to conveniently ignore. Bamwongere kyaanywa !


  4. Clarkson, yes we agree you ‘have been around the world’. Yes we agree you are a celebrity. Yes we agree you are ‘loved’ the world over. But there are a few facts you need to understand especially about economics. If you state that your meal cost you more than an average Ugandan will earn in a lifetime, then you are very wrong. If the entire budget is only comparable to what the NHS spends, it would be prudent that you divide that with the population of our country and I am sure you will find a figure that is greater than your meal. Furthermore, you did not find a girl over 18? You are either a paedophile or you did not look enough. The average age of Ugandans is well over that. If you did a random sample on a street in Surrey and found that all the houses you entered were habited by widows, do you go on to declare that Surrey is populated by widows? Places have names, and since you had a ‘guide’ tell us which part of Kampala it was otherwise we shall put you down as one BIG liar looking for cheap popularity by writing imaginary journals, in the comfort of a five star hotel (which you unfortunately and deliberately refuse to mention exists!) using money from the British taxpayer, most likely with two underage girls by your side, seeking pity that you narrowly missed catching AIDS and cholera at one go. Poor Mr. Jeremy Clarkson, how narrowly you survived to tell the tale!


  5. My God Simon this is a brilliant piece. I’ve got to admit though, I was ready to leave a comment bashing this article when I first saw the link on facebook; “Jeremy Clarkson, Uganda love YOU”. My obvious assumption was that you hadn’t seen/read his article about us. But hey, I was wrong and suddenly my rage after reading his has been justified by yours and instead of me hating Top Gear (I would hate myself for it), I can rest-assured that I have something to trade my rage for; this article. Thank you, you really told him! 🙂


  6. Clarkson lies. Simon defends his country in a most shallow response. If we can not agree with Clarkson about the details, perhaps we should look deep er into the pot.

    Clarkson’s articles are of course exaggerated and stinks of shallow rot (not just the flooding sewage). However, it doesn’t surprise me as much as Simon’s does. I didn’t expect Simon (of all Ugandan bloggers I know) to delve into emotional judgement of an article that hints at a true problem.

    You, Simon and most of those commenting have obviously never lived in Ugandan slums nor spent enough time deep down there. I can tell by the way you open your article that you are one of the Ugandans who consider other fellow country men whose budgets fall below your figure range with less sympathy and concern than the ‘high’ middle class. It’s the foreigners who usually do this and when they write about it, we accuse them of ignorance.

    I have been there. I still go there more than often. There’s a real rot. You reader should take some time to prove Clarkson’s experiences wrong (obviously) before you comment.

    They love you Clarkson, but we love Uganda more.

    PS: I didn’t even know this Clarkson guy and yes I own satellite TV, never listens to FM radio stations but I know the electronics, materials and code configurations of the Mars Curiosity. Do you?


  7. Im abit skeptical about the article because on the site you gave us, it shows that the article was posted last year!! I honestly dont know what to make of it.On one hand, Isnt that what to expect when walking through a Ugandan slum? We Ugandans need to look in the mirror. Alot of these slums are squalid, dirty places that need attention. The man only described what he saw..As for the LRA comment, the underage girls, the ,oney he spent on food,the delusions of grandeur he has re: the BRITS, and all the other nonsense he wrote, that was IGNORANT and if you expected a concise and fair assessment on our dear Uganda, I pity you.(Brace yourselves for the actual episode on top gear, he is going to diss us HARD!!) In the end, its nothing new under the sun, we shall forever be looked at as those Africans that cannot take care of them selves by the West and since our governments continue to prove them right, I honestly cant get mad at him for his misplaced views on a lot that he wrote. Its all he knows, all he sees and honestly all he expected when he came over. Guys, at the very least, he got us talking eh?


  8. And finally I will let loose my comment on the JC article that has been flying around all this time. No matter what those in support of the article say, it is absolutely very misguiding and can certainly pass for disgusting.

    Here is my my response you might find else where and I hope he-JC ever gets to read this;

    Oh Jeremy! This is certainly not about Uganda – you totally missed seeing this beautiful country. Well – depends on what sort of things you and your daughter were looking out for.

    I believe there are places in London that Britain wouldn’t let the Olympics see – I have seen them! And this is true and the same the world over… but would they be worth writing about as the true picture/image of Britain?

    Give it another try, if you have not done already – come with an open mind and discover the true Uganda;

    This country has a lot to offer, not your narrative that I find; a total misrepresentation of facts about Uganda and certainly misleading. You will definitely also need a better guide next time.

    …. And about your perspective of the world – hmmmm! That is for another time.



    1. 🙂 Now THIS is the way to start a week! I promise to put my back into it. I have dilly-dallied over the task, pussy-footed round the issue and beaten about the shrubbery for a bit too long. Thanks!


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